Midsummer Classics: Celebrating MLB’s All-Star Game

by Patrick Donnelly
SportsData LLC

On July 6, 1933, the best baseball players in the world gathered at Chicago’s Comiskey Park for MLB’s first official All-Star Game. Babe Ruth homered, Lefty Gomez was the winning pitcher, and a tradition was born.

The game became known as the “Midsummer Classic,” an annual battle between the top players in the American and National Leagues. And while many one-season wonders get their moment in the sun, the game most often features numerous future Hall of Famers among the familiar faces who make repeat appearances at the All-Star Game.

We set out to determine which players have made the most appearances at each position, both all-time and among active players, and just for fun we also tracked the youngest and oldest All-Stars at each position.

A couple of housekeeping notes: Although teams were picked, there was no game in 1945 due to World War II, and there were two games a year from 1959 to 1962. During those five years, all players who were named to the AL or NL roster were credited with one appearance per season. Also, for our purposes a player didn’t have to actually play in the game to be credited with an All-Star appearance – if they tipped their caps along the first- or third-base line, that counts.

Most career appearances by position
The three players with the most appearances are all outfielders – Hank Aaron (20), Willie Mays (20) and Ted Williams (17). However, Aaron also appeared in one game as a designated hitter – or rather, he was a DH for the bulk of that season (1975) and thus was listed on the roster as a DH. So his 21 overall appearances put him one notch ahead of Mays on the all-time list.

Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. each started 15 games at shortstop, but throw in Ripken’s four appearances as a third baseman and he’s at 19 total All-Star nods. Another Baltimore third-bagger, Brooks Robinson (15), also makes the list, while Mark McGwire (12) leads all first basemen. At second base, Nellie Fox and Roberto Alomar are tied at 12 career appearances.

Longtime Braves hurler Warren Span made the most All-Star Games as a starting pitcher with 14, and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is at 12 appearances and counting out of the bullpen. There’s another tie at catcher between Yogi Berra and Ivan Rodriguez at 14, though Berra also made the team as an outfielder one year.

The designated hitter spot is a bit trickier to define – MLB didn’t use the DH in the All-Star Game until 1989. However, players who spent the majority of their time at DH were named to the team and used as pinch hitters going back to 1974. Among those players, Seattle’s Edgar Martinez had the career lead with six All-Star appearances as a DH, a mark that was tied this year by Boston’s David Ortiz. Martinez also made one appearance as a third baseman, while Ortiz has been to two other All-Star Games as a first baseman.

Most appearances by position among active players
There wasn’t a lot of movement on the leaderboard among active players this year as many of the living legends are having down seasons, but the all-time active leader in All-Star Games is back, as Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter makes his 13th appearance. The other active leaders who made the 2012 roster include Ortiz at DH, Carlos Beltran (7) and Matt Holliday (6) in the outfield, and Chipper Jones (8) at third base. Jones broke a tie with Scott Rolen when he was named as an injury replacement this season.

Two other outfielders – Manny Ramirez (12) and Vladimir Guerrero (8) – spent time in the minor leagues this season and would have made the cut had they been called up to the big leagues, but they’re both currently free agents and thus aren’t considered “active” players.

Obviously career leader Rivera tops all active relief pitchers, while Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki (10) is the only other active player in double figures. Roy Halladay (8) has the most appearances among current starting pitchers, Albert Pujols (7) has the most starts at first base (to go with two appearances as an outfielder), Brian McCann (6) leads at catcher and Chase Utley (5) has the edge at second base.

And one special note regarding Alex Rodriguez – he’s appeared in 14 All-Star Games, more than any other active player, but he’s split those evenly between shortstop and third base, which leaves him off the top of the list at each position.

Oldest and youngest All-Stars by position
The youngest player ever to make an All-Star roster was Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden, who was 19 years and 236 days old when he pitched in the 1984 game. The oldest player was reliever Hoyt Wilhelm, who represented the Braves in the 1970 game just 12 days shy of his 48th birthday. However, Wilhelm didn’t pitch in the game, so the oldest reliever (or any player, for that matter) to participate in an All-Star Game was Satchell Paige, who was a week short of his 47th birthday when he threw one inning of relief in 1953.

Bryce Harper of the Nationals was a late injury replacement, making the rookie outfielder the youngest position player ever to make the All-Star team, just 31 days older than Gooden when he made his All-Star debut. He joins the Tigers’ Al Kaline (20 years, 205 days) and Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. (20 years, 231 days) in the outfield, knocking Yankee legend Mickey Mantle (20 years, 261 days) off the all-time youngest All-Stars roster.

And while Hall of Famers Rod Carew (second base), Eddie Mathews (third base) and Jim Rice (DH) also appear on the list of youngest All-Stars, the rest of the roster is composed of one-hit wonders like Billy McCool (relief pitcher) of the 1966 Reds and Ed Kranepool (first base) of the 1965 Mets; Twins catcher Butch Wynegar and Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus each made another All-Star appearance after breaking in as the youngest at their positions, although you can bet that the 23-year-old Andrus will be a fixture for years to come, barring injury.

Hall of Famers dot the roster of oldest All-Stars, led by starting pitcher Phil Niekro (45 years, 100 days) who represented the Yankees in the 1984 game. All-time hit king Pete Rose (44 years, 93 days) was the oldest first baseman, joined around the diamond by second baseman Jeff Kent (37 years, 127 days), Smith (41 years, 195 days) at shortstop and Graig Nettles (40 years, 330 days) at third.

The outfield includes Cardinals legend Stan Musial (42 years, 230 days), Mays (42 years, 79 days) in his final appearance with the Mets, and home run king Barry Bonds (41 years, 352 days) of the Giants. The oldest DH was Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski, who was 43 years and 318 days old when he made his final All-Star appearance in 1983.

 

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